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Prison guard Mark Williams has to choose between his job and his dreadlocks

About two weeks ago, a sergeant approached Mark Williams, a correctional officer at the California Institution for Men, in Chino, and told him he had to choose between his dreadlocks and his job. For 14 years Mark has supervised inmates—checked their mail, given them soap, watched them eat breakfast and work out in the Yard, driven them to radiation-treatment centers, and covered their vocation release. All the while, he kept his dreadlocks in a bun, to keep them above his collar.

According to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation manual, “Female employees’ hair shall not extend below the bottom of the collar. If the hair is long, it shall be worn in a neat, non-flamboyant style.” But the bun rule only applies to female employees.

Read more at Vice

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Fred Neil: A long time coming

Fred Neil’s cavernous baritone and wayward backing group were recorded directly to stereo for his ’66 self-titled solo album. Conservatively dressed, his curly head nodded over the microphone inside a Capitol studio webbed with shadows. “Everybody’s Talkin’” was finished in one take. Three years later Harry Nilsson covered it for the award-winning film Midnight Cowboy. The song burned the charts and Fred cashed it all in.

*Published on Jan 10, 2014 as a feature for American Songwriter’s website


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The Rutles, “Piggy In The Middle”

I watched The Rutles’ film, All You Need is Cash, while eating a sausage biscuit for lunch. It seems I just stumbled upon them at random, although I recall hearing about them during a loose round of Trivial Pursuit. I watched these men poke fun at the musically revered Beatles. It was initially unsettling. The whole parody punctured my brain. Had I been a sucker my whole life, believing that The Beatles were lyrically “untouchable?” Have I taken them too seriously for too long? And I sat there, stoned by The Rutles, and ate a sausage biscuit.

*Published on Aug 16, 2013 as a feature for American Songwriter’s website

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If I was a pet, I would commit suicide

I interviewed Scott McClanahan not long after he filed his divorce papers. His new apartment sounded empty, like there were no pictures on the walls. He told me that he hadn’t left his place in two weeks and he’d lost weight. “Maybe I should get divorced more often,” he joked. I looked down at the recorder thinking that marital complications aren’t the brightest of opening topics. He then told me he felt like a chunk of coal and compared himself to the country singer Billy Joe Shaver—“Gonna be a diamond some day.”

Read more at the Oxford American

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